University mourns passing of DeBow

The University Community offers its most sincere condolences to the family, many friends and colleagues of the late Dr. Shirley DeBow, a Lethbridge-based community volunteer, social worker and educator who served as the 10th Chancellor of the University of Lethbridge from 2003 – 2007.

Shirley passed away on Monday, March 25, at age 68.

She is survived by her husband Gerald DeBow, and their three children – Jeremy, Suzanne and Adrienne – and their families.

A memorial service has yet to be confirmed.

This notice will be updated as additional information becomes available.

Shirley served the University and broader community with enthusiasm, good humour and dedication, and participated in a host of community activities as Chancellor that served to strengthen the relationship between the University and the Lethbridge community at large.

She served on the U of L Senate from 1993 to 2001, as well as a number of U of L-specific committees and groups, and received an Honorary Degree from the U of L in 2008 for her extensive community service efforts.

During her time as Chancellor, she either hugged or (was hugged by) more than 6,000 students who were welcomed into the U of L family and helped establish the Senate Volunteer award, as well as an endowed Senate Scholarship for students, among other outreach activities.

"The U of L has long been fortunate to have strong community support and committed volunteers and Shirley DeBow was very much one of those people," said Dr Bill Cade, who served as U of L President during Shirley's term as Chancellor.

"She devoted much time and effort to University activities over the years, especially in her role as University Chancellor. This was a job that Shirley loved and was ideally suited for. She performed her duties with much class and with genuine interest in the well being of our students.

Cade said that Shirley also served as an outstanding ambassador for the University and worked tirelessly with the broader southern Alberta community to advance the U of L.

"One of Shirley's most significant legacies was the establishment of the Senate Scholarship Fund. Shirley provided leadership at a critical time when the University Senate launched a drive to raise scholarship funding for outstanding students. They were very successful and the fund continues to this day. It was a pleasure to work with Shirley in her capacity as Chancellor of the U of L. Elsa and I will miss her and we offer our condolences and best wishes to her family at this time."

Shirley's care and concern for people extended far beyond her immediate family, and she was forever a Maritimer, no matter how much time she spent on the prairies. Shirley was born in Nova Scotia (delivered by the doctor-father of Canadian music artist Anne Murray)and spent her childhood on Cape Breton Island, where her father served as an Anglican priest.

She attended Dalhousie University, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree, the Maritime School of Social Work, and, after moving to Alberta in 1966, attended the University of Calgary Faculty of Social Work.

She accepted a position as a social worker with the Government of Alberta, then progressed to NAIT, where she launched the first Social Services Worker program.

Shirley took this experience to the newly-established Grant MacEwan Community College in 1971, where, as the institution's 5th full-time employee, she established several key outreach programs and was particularly proud of an outreach program that she personally delivered to remote and northern locations of the province. She became the Head of the Social Services program, and was an instructor within the program until moving to Lethbridge in 1984.

In Lethbridge, she taught at Lethbridge Community College on a part-time basis and worked as a Social Worker/Supervisor of Social Work Programs at FamilyCare Inc., training and certifying social workers in several communities in southern Alberta, including the Town of Claresholm, the Kainai first Nation and the Siksika First Nation.

She will be remembered as the ultimate grandmother who was fiercely proud of her family, as a gracious host who welcomed people from all walks of life into her world, and as a community volunteer who worked tirelessly behind the scenes for organizations in need.

Condolences may be sent to the family at this address: